by Kathleen Wolf
COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and back story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts scenes of violence. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
LOVE DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story. Please note no graphic sexual scene are contained within the story.
Feedback: As this is my first attempt at Xena fan fiction, any comments would be greatly appreciated.
SPECIAL THANKS: For editing help above and beyond the call of duty, I would like to thank Gin and The Hiker.
It was a relatively quiet town, but true to her warrior nature Xena expected trouble to arrive at any minute, so she had taken a seat at a small table near the back of the inn. Her current position gave her an unobstructed view of the entire room and, more importantly, a view of Gabrielle. True to her nature the bard was standing on the inn's small stage and reveling in the undivided attention of every person present. The fact that every person present only totalled five, and that was if you counted the inn keeper and Xena, didn't seem to phase the bard as she painted each scene in her story with a flourish of words and hand movements. Knowing this particular story was nearing the end and Gabrielle's hunger after a long day of walking would keep her from telling another story, Xena signalled to the inn keeper to bring a round of drinks and something to eat.
Gabrielle finished the story a few minutes later and after gracefully bowing out of another she walked back to the table Xena was sitting at. She dropped down into the seat across from her. It was then that the innkeeper, with the help of his son, emerged from the kitchen, carrying a large platter of food that barely fit on the table when it was laid down.
"Uh Xena," Gabrielle asked wide-eyed. " I know I eat a lot, but was all this necessary."
"Gabrielle..." Xena began to object.
"My apologies." The voice came from behind the innkeeper, who turned and smiled at the stranger and then scurried away with the boy. "I was so impressed by your story that I hope I didn't overstep any boundaries by buying you both dinner in appreciation."
Xena looked up and down the woman in front of them. The large thick wool cape she wore could easily be hiding a weapon and Xena found her sixth sense reacting to the stranger.
"Thank you so much." Gabrielle broke in. "But all this, I mean there is only the two of us. You shouldn't have, I enjoyed telling the story." Gabrielle shot Xena a quick look to plead with the tense warrior to relax, that there was nothing to worry about.
"Actually, I wasn't sure what you liked, so I had everything possible brought out, please don't feel obligated to eat it all." The cloaked woman was keeping eye contact with Gabrielle and completely ignoring Xena.
'Damn it.' Xena thought to herself. "Here I am being worried about just another young girl whose fallen prey to the love stories spun by a bard." But Xena found that she still couldn't relax. It may have been the way the big cloak fell around the woman, or maybe a light had gone out somewhere in the room, but the darkness seemed to hang around her making it very hard for Xena to get a good look at her face.
"...So please enjoy the food and thank you again for the story." The stranger's voice seemed to catch Xena's attention again. It appeared that while she had been studying the stranger, Gabrielle had accepted a gift. Xena then suddenly found herself being looked at for the first time, and with a slight bow of her head and eyes the stranger retreated.
"Look what she slipped in my hand," Gabrielle's voice brought Xena eyes from the stranger back to her. "Two gold coins. These must be worth a fortune! I thought when she gave them to me it was a couple of dinars so I didn't look right away but...By the Gods Xena, I can't accept this." Gabrielle looked at Xena for some sort of answer.
"Yes you can, Gabrielle. You are an excellent bard and that woman was the first out of everyone to recognize how valuable your stories are. Besides she obviously has money to spare. And..."
"And what Xena?" Gabrielle asked the warrior who had a very uncharacteristic smirk on her face.
"Well we're not expected in Dennison for at least two weeks. We could take a slight detour to a town about two days walk north of here that is known throughout Greece for it's shopping. You wouldn't want to deprive yourself of that, would you?"
"But Xena, you hate too shop." She exclaimed and then continued more quietly to herself, "But you know we do need a few things." Xena watched as Gabrielle pondered all the things she could buy.
"How about you make the list later." Xena interrupted the bards thoughts. "Right now there is a little problem with a giant platter of food."
"Yes." Gabrielle smacked her lips. "Yes there is, isn't there." And with that the two of them began greedily sampling from the huge assortment in front of them.
At her table the stranger couldn't believe her own boldness. 'It's not your fault,' One part of her said. 'You did not seek her out. In fact you did your best to keep track of the rumors and avoid running into her.' But this gave her heart little comfort. To be so close to her, just feet away from the person she needed so much to know. 'Just try to be calm.' She whispered to herself in reassurance, absently running her hand through her long blond streaked brown hair. At least her mind had been thinking straight enough to sit down with her back to their table. She had no natural opportunity to look at the storyteller and any movement to do so would further arouse the suspicions of the warrior travelling with her. She silently hoped the meal she had arranged would be good and her heart was happy the coins had been accepted without a great fuss. Her legs begged her to just flee into the night, get as far away from the pair as she could, but her heart held her firmly in her seat. That's when the smell hit her. Evil was approaching. She prepared herself.
Xena snapped her head to the door when she saw it kicked open. Five large dirty men entered the dinning room. The lead man, addressed as Rowland by one of the men behind him, walked straight to the stranger and kicked the table over and stood directly in front of her. Xena watched the stranger rise to her feet and say something inaudible from that distance to the solider.
"Let's see how my blade serves to shorten your tongue." Rowland spat the words into the stranger's face in response. Xena saw the dagger in his hand too late and knew the distance was too far to travel to save the woman. Most of her view was obstructed by the thick cloak, but even as Xena ran towards them she knew the wound would be fatal. Her main thought now was stopping these men before their attention turned to Gabrielle. The other four men began to turn toward Xena when something so unusual happened they all, including Xena, stopped in mid step.
The mortally wounded stranger responded to being stabbed by grabbing Rowland by the throat and hoisting him two feet off the ground.
The stranger used everyone's expected surprise at her show of strength to remove the dagger that was sticking out of her chest and bring it up to the mans throat. She knew the wound was already healing, although there would be a nasty slice in the leather shirt she wore. 'You stupid pig.' She thought.' Why couldn't you have attacked me at any other time than this? Then at least I could have killed you without having her watch.' The stranger felt the anger rising in her and it took all of her control not to cut the man apart.
Seeing their leader in trouble the four men turned to jump on the stranger, but Xena was on them in a flash. A well-placed kick to the throat sent the first into a corner, gasping for breath and finally into unconsciousness. The second threw a punch at her, which she caught in mid air and then using the scoundrel's own fist broke his nose and sent him to sleep with his friend.
The stranger, in the mean time, had dropped the choking warlord to the ground. Spinning around she savagely lashed out with her right foot at the closest foe, and from the sound of the crack it make she had broken his leg. Then in the briefest of moments her rage turned on another foe, hurtling him back into the tavern wall with an ominous thud. It was as the stranger turned to Xena that the warlord decided to try his luck again. The stranger instantly saw the man's attack reflected in Xena's expression. 'So this is how you want it,' She thought as she spun around and with one blow to the face, shattered most of the bones within it. The spin of the cloak as she turned had hid the gruesome blow from Gabrielle's view. But Xena had a perfect angle to see the incredible fluidity of the movement that caused an instant eruption of blood from every orifice of Rowland's face. She had never seen such damage inflicted with one blow without some sort of weapon.
'Must get out of here!'" the stranger's own voice screamed inside her head. 'Xena will know that was not normal, she'll see something, she'll know...' Her thoughts ran fast and hard. Fumbling, she turned and threw a handful of coins at the innkeeper as an apology for the damage. Fearing she couldn't command her mouth to form words, she looked up into Xena's questioning eyes.
Once again Xena was surprised when the stranger lowered her eyes and slightly bowed her head in thanks. Xena went to speak, but in a whirl of black cloth the stranger darted out the door into the night without a sound.
"Xena, what did she do to him?" Gabrielle's voice caught her mind and dragged it back to reality. The bard had moved over to kneel next to the motionless body.
"His face! How did she do that to his face?" Gabrielle's voice was quivering from the gore. She had seen many hideous things on her travels with Xena, but what had been done to this man..."What did she hit him with?" She asked as Xena helped her to stand.
"I think she had a rock or something in her hand." Xena muttered as she led Gabrielle over to the bar. The innkeeper was staring from the dead and injured men on his floor to his handful of gold and back again in amazement.
"Do you have a room?" Xena's stern voice broke him from his trance.
"Yes...um, that woman already arranged it...for as long as you like." He looked at Xena as frightened of the warrior as he was of the mysterious woman.
"Fine. Key!" Xena didn't like that this stranger and now obviously deadly woman had arranged for their room, but right now getting Gabrielle away from the bodies was much more important.
"Sh-should I send up the rest of the food to your room?" The innkeeper stuttered as he handed the warrior the key. Xena didn't even answer him, just turned and guided a dazed Gabrielle up the stairs, deciding that what they both needed was to just get some sleep.
The stranger didn't know how long she'd been running. But when she finally stopped she was deep in the forest.
'Stupid, stupid, stupid...' The word repeated over and over in her head. She hadn't been near the woman for more than a few hours and already she had killed in front of her.
'Tomorrow...' she told herself. 'You are going to start walking north, far away from where the innkeeper said Xena and Gabrielle were heading. And I swear to avoid them from now on at all costs.' Having convinced herself this was the best course of action, the stranger laid out on the forest floor, wrapped the cloak around her and cried herself to sleep.
The sun rose in the morning, the light striking Gabrielle unforgivably in the face, waking her up. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and rolled over to find she was alone in the room. "She's up before me again." She mumbled to herself, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "Can't that woman ever sleep in?" Gabrielle's body begged her to stay in bed but her head knew the warrior would want to be on the move after the trouble last night so she washed her face and hurried downstairs.
Xena had spent most of the morning asking if anyone knew anything about the stranger but had not gotten any information. No one had even caught her name. One thing she had discovered when she questioned the innkeeper was that breakfast had been arranged and provisions for their journey had been bought and waited with Argo in the stable.
'So, stranger, apparently you've thought of everything,' Xena thought uneasily. She couldn't understand why the stranger would lavish such gifts on them just because Gabrielle had told one story, but since she had nothing to go on, she silently swore to be on her guard.
"Good morning sleepy head." She broke her silence when she heard Gabrielle trying to sneak up behind her.
"By the Gods Xena, do you have eyes in the back of your head or something?" Gabrielle sat down at the table.
"Or something. " Xena smiled at her.
"I know I slept late and you'll want to get going, but can I order some breakfast first? I'm starving." Gabrielle's voice pleaded with her.
"Actually, breakfast has already been arranged." Xena swept her hand in the direction of the innkeeper and his boy coming from the kitchen laden with food.
"And from the amount it must be from my cloaked fan," Gabrielle said sheepishly knowing that the stranger's abilities and gifts had disturbed Xena. "But since she's gone there's no harm in eating, right?" Gabrielle looked to the warrior for approval before she started.
"Go ahead, Gabrielle. I don't want to have you whining that your hungry all day." Xena poked fun at her. "But once we finished, we're putting some distance between us and here. I don't want to be around if those guys have any friends."
"Okay." Gabrielle mumbled through a mouthful of bread. She knew the warrior was on edge because of the previous night, and at these times it was best just to let Xena be.
'I can't believe how late I slept.' The stranger chastised herself as she slowly walked down the path. Being lost in thought, she didn't hear the horses approaching.
"There's the wench who killed Rowland!" The lead rider yelled to his comrades. "Remember, Scorpion wants her alive."
The group had circled the stranger before she had become aware of them, but her attention was quickly focused on them.
"I am not in the mood for this boys. Why don't you just ride off and leave me alone?" She said calmly.
"You killed the son of the warlord Scorpion and he wants you dragged back to his camp so he can kill you." The solider growled to her as one of his companions threw a heavy rope net over her.
Xena had immediately known that the riders were hunting someone and in the interest of safety had whisked Gabrielle and herself into the trees to hide. She hadn't expected to hear them stop such a sort distance.
"Stay here." Xena asked of Gabrielle, as in one swift motion she was atop of Argo and galloping down the road. Gabrielle tried to protest, but the warrior princess was long gone. The bard stood amongst the trees for a minute, a sick feeling washed over. Fearing for her companion she ran up the road after her.
Xena drew her sword and with her war cry pulled the attention of the three men away from their victim. The first rogue came at her alone and she sliced her sword into his chest as he passed. With another cry, she leap out of the saddle, and kicked both of his comrades backwards off their horses. She landed beside her combatants, and brought the hilt of her sword down to knock the first man out and kicked the other in the face to immobilize him. Xena looked now to see the other's had dismounted and were closing in on the figure beneath the net. Her hand reached down to her chakram and letting it fly, knocked the sword out of each mans hand in turn before it returned to her.
"Now, now boys, hasn't anyone every told you that nets are for catching fish not people?" she said.
"This was none of your business. But since you've dared to interfere we'll be happy to drag you back too." The solider picked up his weapon and charged the short distance toward Xena.
He was well versed with a sword compared to most, but in a few short movements Xena had easily disarmed him and knocked him unconscious. Seeing him defeated, the others jumped onto their horses and fled. Xena walked over to the figure beneath the net.
"It's all right. I won't hurt you, just let me get this off." Xena tried to speak softly so not to scare the poor person underneath. When she pulled up the net, the face of the stranger looked back at her.
"It looks like I am again in need of saying thank you." The stranger words were soft and embarrassed. It was then that Gabrielle arrived, after ignoring Xena's instructions and having run up the road to follow her. Her instincts first drew her to Xena, and when she was assured the warrior was not injured she turned to look at the figure on the ground.
"You!" Gabrielle said with her jaw gapping open.
"Yes, me." The stranger replied, lifting herself off the ground.
"Apparently someone named Scorpion is very mad at you for killing his son." Xena said sourly as she walked to Argo and took his reins. "Maybe you should travel with us for awhile in case of trouble." 'And so that I can keep an eye on you.' Xena added in her mind.
"I don't want to be any trouble. I'll be quite fine..." The stranger tried to protest, but was cut off by Gabrielle.
"That's a great idea. It's quite a walk to the next town and I have a new story I've been working on, I'm in desperate need of an audience." The stranger looked again at Xena who nodded her approval to the invitation.
"Yes. Thank you." The stranger nodded again to Xena. These displays of submission seemed strange to Xena. A woman with her obvious abilities should not have been overtaken by such a clumsy group of fighters and should not be constantly humbling herself.
'Sometimes it's good to keep your enemies close' Xena thought.
Gabrielle started walking down the road, drawing the stranger to walk with her and leave Xena alone. 'She never invites anyone to come with us.' Gabrielle questioned her partner's motives. 'But with the mood she's in at least I'll have someone to talk too while were walking.'
The day was a constant din of the sounds of Argo's hoofs and Gabrielle recounting story after story to the patiently listening stranger. It was almost nightfall when Gabrielle's hunger got the better of her.
"Xena, do you think we could stop and make camp? I'm starved."
'We have made good time.' The warrior thought. "All right Gabrielle." She spoke down from atop of Argo. "There is a nice spot up ahead we'll camp there." Once again the stranger turned back to Xena and lowered her eyes as she nodded.
There was no need for hunting since the stranger had arranged for more than enough supplies back in town. In fact, Xena had refused a good portion of them, not wanting to load Argo down too much. Xena went to check the surrounding forest, while the stranger made a fire and Gabrielle set about making camp and starting dinner. When Xena returned, the stew was ready and the three of them ate.
"Do you want more ...ah...?" Gabrielle had noticed the stranger was finished and seemed timid to take more stew; it was then that she realized she didn't know the woman's name. "I'm sorry I don't know your name. I'm Gabrielle and this is Xena." She said with a wide smile.
"I am called Sorrow." The stranger locked her eyes on the fire and spoke softly.
"I'm sorry," Gabrielle said shocked. "But that seems like I a very cruel name for a child."
"It was my father's choice. He is a cruel man." Sorrow did not look up.
"But what about your mother, I'm sure she objected to such a name." Gabrielle caught the look that Xena shot at her but ignored it. She'd get a lecture on tact in the morning but right now she didn't care.
"My mother doesn't even know I exist. My father stole me from her." Sorrow's voice was plain and her eyes never left the fire.
"But how can that be, a woman knows when she gives birth to a baby!" Gabrielle knew she shouldn't be so forward with her questions but this mysterious woman with the saddening name seemed like a riddle waiting to be unravelled.
"It was quite a complicated affair." Sorrow's eyes moved up to the sky for a brief second, before returning to the fire.
"That's all right, sometimes Gabrielle gets a little inquisitive. It's a bard thing." Xena didn't trust or understand this woman, but she was damn sure she didn't want to cause her any more pain. Xena seemed to recognize what Gabrielle could not see: the suffering, the rage inside this woman. The incredible tale that her life held.
"It's all right," Sorrow said briefly looking at Xena. "My father was a hideous man and as any man does he felt he needed a legacy. But no woman would have him as he was. So he lured my mother from her home and he raped her. When the time came, she was unaware that she had given birth to twins. My father left one child with her and stole me away to his..." Sorrow seemed to stammer to find the right word, "To his kingdom."
"Your father is a king?" Gabrielle asked in shock.
"In a way, yes " Sorrow answered hesitantly.
'That explains the money.' Xena thought to herself.
"And you have never met your mother?" Gabrielle asked softly, realizing how painful Sorrow's situation must be.
"No, I have never even laid my eyes on her." Sorrow clenched her teeth as she spoke.
"Why don't you seek her out? I'm sure if she knew you existed she want you to go to her." Gabrielle's voice pleaded with the woman, although she really didn't know why.
"No, Gabrielle." Sorrow found it hard to say her name, but tried to continue without either of them realizing this. "With what my father is and what he put her through and what he has made me, she would not want anything to do with me."
"So was it your father who taught you to fight?" Xena injected the question offhandedly, figuring that if Sorrow was opening herself up to twenty questions she might as well get some of her own answered.
"Yes. He was adamant that I be able to conquer anything or anyone." Sorrow spoke softly. She did not want to alarm the warrior with this admission. If only Xena knew that nothing in existence could make her harm either of the women sitting at the fire.
"Maybe we should all get some sleep." Gabrielle interjected, fearing that Xena would be growing edgy around Sorrow, but most of all fearing the deep ache that had started in her heart. She didn't want to hear anymore of this woman's painful story. She almost wished she would just go away. When neither of the other two women moved, she sighed and snuggled down into her bedroll next to where Xena was sitting. Within minutes the campsite was filled with the soft sounds of Gabrielle snoring.
"You don't seem bothered by that stab wound Rowland gave you?" Xena finally asked breaking the silence. Sorrow looked up at her trying to hide the shock.
'Damn it she did see,' She thought. "He didn't stab me, just got his dagger tangled up in my cloak." Sorrow tried her best to lie.
"Good thing. 'Cause anyone I've ever seen take a dagger to the chest died." Xena added as she got into her bedroll beside Gabrielle. Sorrow didn't bother to answer. She just stared at the fire for a short while before going to sleep herself.
'At least now she'll know I'm watching her.' Xena thought as she settled in to sleep.
Xena felt a change in the forest before she heard the men approaching. She looked across the burnt out fire to see Sorrow lying on her stomach, eyes wide open. Sorrow brought her right arm up to signal two men over in the trees at her side of camp and two over behind Xena. Xena nodded back and despite all her reservations found herself forced into a position of trusting the strange woman to help protect Gabrielle. They both instinctually rose up off the ground in unison. Sorrow gracefully turning toward the forest and dashing to take the two men by surprise. Unfortunately for Xena at that moment a still very asleep Gabrielle turned over to cuddle into the warrior and as a result tripped Xena sideways to avoid her. In the meantime Sorrow easily surprised the two men and with the cover of the trees, quickly killed them with sharp blows to the throat. She heard Xena fall and her heart seemed to realize before her mind that with Xena down Gabrielle would be in danger. Sorrow turned quickly and the rage shot up inside her as she saw that Xena was on the ground wrestling with one large solider on top of her and the other man was standing over Gabrielle with his sword raised. She covered the distance to the man faster than even she thought possible. Sorrow didn't have an attack plan or even put her hands up to strike. She ran full force into the man with her shoulder at stomach level, picked him up without missing a stride and carried him off into the forest.
"By the Gods NOOOOOOO..." echoed throughout the forest before the silence warily returned.
Xena, in the meantime, had gotten the upper hand on the last man. She quickly put the pinch on him and leaned in close to his face.
"I've cut off the flow of blood to your brain and you have less than thirty seconds to live."
The man tried to struggle for a moment before realizing it was futile.
"The warlord Scorpion sent us to kill all of you in revenge for his son." The man was barely able to spit out the words.
"Anything else?" The warrior looked sternly at the dying man.
"When Scorpion heard that you were in the area he figured you might interfere with his plans."
"What plans?" Xena asked the question with a growl.
"He plans to use his army to attack Pearson and use the spoils to further fund his army." The man gasped for what he thought was his last breath, when Xena released the pinch and knocked him out.
"What's going on?" A sleepy Gabrielle awoke at the sound of Xena's fist hitting the man's thick skull.
"Go back to sleep, it's all over." Xena smiled at her, saying silent thank you's that her bard was safe.
"Where's Sorrow?" Gabrielle asked sleepy eyed looking around the camp.
"She's off ...taking care of ...oh she's over there teaching a lesson to the guy who tried to cut your head off." Xena was tongue tied with the admission that it was Sorrow and not her that had really saved Gabrielle. "I'm gonna get rid of this one." Xena angrily stated as she began to drag the unconscious man away. She loosely tied him up a fair distance from camp. "Now you can go and tell Scorpion how you blabbed his entire plan and he can decide what to do with you." The warrior spat at the unconscious figure.
Sorrow looked down ashamed at the man in front of her. She knew he had been a man, but he now looked more like a poor soul who had met up with some kind of large animal. Without another thought she picked up the bloody body and hid it high in one of the trees hoping neither of her companions would find it. She wiped as much blood off herself as she could and walked back to camp.
Gabrielle was sitting alone by the fire when Sorrow arrived.
"I made some tea." The now awake woman offered when Sorrow sat down.
"Thank you. That is very kind." Sorrows voice was quite.
"Xena went to release one of the men." Gabrielle tried to make conversation, but was met with silence. "He told her that the Scorpion plans to attack Pearson and that he really wants all of us dead." Gabrielle's words were met by a small nod. "And she said you saved my life." Gabrielle added softly.
"I just gave her a little help." Sorrow tried to change Gabrielle's view of the events. "She was busy saving you from one solider already, I just..."
"Thank you." Gabrielle injected before she could finish. Xena returned at that moment, and the sudden stop in the conversation led her to believe it was because of her arrival. In truth both the other women knew that the silence had already been agreed upon.
Xena awoke a few hours later at sunrise, surprised to find that Sorrow was not at the campsite. Her cloak was still at the other side of the fire pit, so Xena knew she must still be near and headed down to the river nearby.
Sorrow as standing on the bank and going through her morning exercises. In her mind she chastised herself over an over for the brutality with which she had killed the last man. But he had intended to hurt Gabrielle she thought.
"Stretching out your kinks?" Xena asked as she approached the woman, deciding in her mind to try a new friendly approach since the woman had risked her own life to save what was most precious to Xena.
"Yes. I imagine you have a similar morning routine?" Sorrow stopped her movements and turned to look at the warrior. Standing a few feet apart now, Xena took the time to size the other woman up. Sorrow stood just a bit shorter than Xena, and for the first time Xena noticed she was not a small woman. Her shoulders and hips seemed broader than the rest of her frame would dictate. But Xena knew every inch of this woman was pure muscle. Then there was the eyes.
'So green and so deep.' Xena thought to herself. 'I've seen those eyes before.' It was now, for the first time, that the beauty of this woman struck Xena. The mere form of her dictated strength and power, but somewhere underneath was that pain and softness that Xena had glimpsed the night before. Xena held back a sudden shudder. 'What is her pain? Why do I pity her?' She questioned her own mind confused.
"Would you like to spar for some exercise?" Xena asked her trying to break the spell cast by the woman's eyes.
"All right." Sorrow seemed to shake her head also clearing the cobwebs of thought.
As the two woman practiced they didn't hear Gabrielle approach from the trees. She sat down on the grass and watched them spar gracefully with one another.
'It's like dancing.' She thought as she watched one kick, the other block, then one punch, the other jump away. Gabrielle knew from experience that Xena was being nice and not using even half of her fighting skills, but it seemed that Sorrow was also holding back. This was unusual because most people who got the chance to have a friendly sparring match with Xena took the opportunity to try and prove themselves. Sorrow seemed to be making no attempt at this at all, just doing enough to keep Xena from landing any successful blows and keeping the warrior on her toes at the same time. Gabrielle was lulled from her thoughts when her stomach growled.
"I'm gonna go make breakfast, anybody else hungry?" She asked as she stood up. Hearing her voice Sorrow lost her concentration and turned to look at Gabrielle. Before she could stop herself Xena landed a stinging punch to her chin. Sorrow, not at all prepared, spun backwards and landed on some rocks behind her.
"Xena." Gabrielle's voice chastised the warrior as she ran over to the fallen woman's side.
"I didn't.....she could have easily blocked that......you distracted her." Xena's embarrassed words tumbled out. Not that she didn't mind giving the other woman a shot to exhibit her own strength, but her mind agreed with Gabrielle in that it had been unfair under the circumstances.
"Not her fault. I broke my concentration." Sorrow dismissed the issue as she stood. "It is an honour to spar with you Xena." Sorrow added and to both the warrior and bard's surprise the woman bowed to Xena.
"Let's go get something to eat." Gabrielle volunteered as a way to end the awkwardness hanging in the air.
"So what's the plan Xena?" Gabrielle broke the silence of their breakfast only after finishing her third plate.
"We head to Pearson immediately." Xena said as she sharpened her sword.
"Are you going to take on Scorpion?" Gabrielle asked already knowing the answer.
"It's me he's after." Sorrow voice broke a little too forcefully into the conversation. " I mean I'm the one who killed his brother." She tried to soften her tone. " So by traveling with you I'm just causing you both to be in danger. It would be best if we split up." She hoped desperately her suggestion would be accepted but her mind knew better.
"Actually Sorrow." Xena answered. "We all have a problem in that a crazed warlord wants to burn and slash his way across Greece. And honestly, with your fighting skills, I could really use your assistance." Xena stared into the other woman's eyes, thoroughly trying to read her thoughts. Gabrielle couldn't believe it, Xena was asking a complete stranger for help.
'There really is something mysterious about her.' Gabrielle thought as she too stared at Sorrow.
"As you wish." Their new ally answered and again bowed her head and eyes briefly to Xena in
compliance. With the decision made the three packed up camp and headed to Pearson.
Pearson was not your ordinary small village, mostly due to the fact that it possessed a small defensive army of around twenty somewhat trained men and even more because of the large central temple in the town were a kings treasure was rumored to be stored.
"Just great." Xena said under her breath to Gabrielle, as the commander of the small army explained to her why such a village as Pearson had any army at all.
"None of us have been in the antechamber. But the priests have assured me that the treasures are worth fighting this Scorpion character for." The commander, a young man named Solanto, hoped the warrior and her friends would help them fight. He was in way over his head and he knew it.
"Are there any villagers who can help us?" Gabrielle asked realizing Xena's presence and the impending battle were taking their toll on the young man..
"Yes, my men have been attempting to gather everyone and arm them as best as we can."
"How many?" Xena asked trying to form a plan.
"Twenty within my ranks and about 15 men from the village." Solanto added sadly. "We've scouted Scorpion's army, he has to have at least two hundred men. Maybe more."
"I want to see every inch of this temple." Xena said as she stood and motioned for Solanto to lead them.
The temple had a large thick door leading into the main large hall.
'Well at least we won't have to worry too much about reinforcing that.' Xena thought trying to formulate a plan. The antechamber containing the treasure was underground and even Xena was not allowed entry, due to the fact that the door had been sealed shut with stone many years before. 'So Scorpion needs not only to get his men in here, but take over the whole town in order to have time to dig open the antechamber.' Xena did not like the look of this. A slash, burn and grab attack by a warlord was a little easier to defend against then an all out occupation.
"Gabrielle, have all the woman and children brought into the main hall. Bring in all the supplies and store them near the back." Xena barked out orders, but Gabrielle knew the bluntness only meant she had to move quickly. "Solanto have all the priests start storing water in every container available. We may have to hold up for awhile in this building." The soldier saluted her and ran off. "Sorrow," She turned to the silent onlooker. "we need to get a better idea of what were up against." Sorrow nodded that she understood and the two women headed off to find the army.
"Looks more like two fifty." Xena whispered to Sorrow as looked down onto the field that Scorpian had set up his armies barracks.
"He doesn't seem to put much stock in archers, I don't see a single man relying on a bow." Sorrow added trying to gauge their foe.
"Which means Scorpion must like hand to hand fighters, which means most of the village men will be slaughtered." Xena shook her head in disgust.
"True. But you have no intention of meeting him in open space do you?" Sorrow glanced at her. Xena stared back at her trying to convince herself that it was the obvious defense to take in these circumstances and not that this woman was not somehow out thinking her.
"Xena you don't have to trust me and you don't have to let me in on the plan. I will do whatever you ask as soon as you ask it. Is that understood?" Sorrow spoke with conviction. 'I must show her that I will obey.' Sorrow thought. 'She has no reason to trust someone as dangerous as myself and I must not arouse her suspicions.'
Xena didn't answer she just got up and started the walk back to the village to check on how Gabrielle was doing.
"By now Scorpion knows the three of us are here at the village and that we plan to help you stop him." Xena looked at Solanto, then back to the two women. "Tonight everyone but the look outs will be inside these walls. I expect Scorpion will attack in the morning, with no moon out tonight were in luck. So everyone get a good nights sleep and be ready for the morning." With this Solanto went to sit with his men and calm his nerves. Sorrow walked to the back of the room into a dark corner and sat down. Gabrielle and Xena did not mind that the stranger had volunteered to leave them. Xena lead Gabrielle back to a small room the head priest had offered for them to sleep in.
"But Xena shouldn't we be with everyone else tonight, their all so scared." Gabrielle felt guilty for the bed Xena had arranged for them.
"No Gabrielle, both you and I need to be sharp in the morning and that dictates a good night's sleep. Beside out there we'll be keep up all night by the crying." Xena regretted how harsh the words were as she said them. "I didn't mean that Gabrielle, it's just that were going to be under siege here. I'd ask you to leave tonight..." Gabrielle cut her off.
"But I'm not going anywhere without you and you won't leave them. So please don't ask again." Gabrielle clasped her lover's hands and looked up into her eyes. "Every morning we wake up is a gamble Xena and the only reason I can go on is because of you." The bard couldn't believe the fear she felt. Xena and her had been in worse situations than this, but there was some kind of change in the air. Something very monumental was going to happen the next day and Gabrielle felt that if she didn't reaffirm her love for the warrior now, time would run out. So she continued.
"Xena I trust everything will turn out all right but just in case....."
"Gabrielle, I will not let anything happen to you. Do you think I would let the most beautiful, precious thing in my life be harmed. Don't worry, I'll think of something clever and send this Scorpion rogue running for the hills."
"I don't know why, but I just have a bad feeling about this." Gabrielle paused in an attempt to clarify the source of the fear.
"I love you" Xena's voice lovingly called her out of her thoughts. She too felt apprehensive about the immediate future. She felt a need suddenly to open her soul up and give Gabrielle every drop of love she had.
"Yes Xena I love you too, but we have came so close to losing each other before. I don't want to be wishing I had not wasted these moments." Gabrielle looked directly into the blue eyes and instantly realized Xena was feeling the same.
"No time with you is ever wasted, or ever enough to satisfy if I lost you." Xena looked right back at her. She wanted to give it all to the bard right now, all the words the small woman could carry into her head and more, every bit of her love wrapped up in them. But Gabrielle didn't want words. She freed her hands from Xena's and brought them up to either side of the warrior's face. Slowly she closed her eyes and leaned in. Xena felt her eyes close as well, she had expected that Gabrielle would want to talk not... Her thoughts were broken when the soft flesh of Gabrielle's lips made contact with hers. The kiss was brief but electric. Both of them felt renewed and euphoric in each other's arms.
"Tonight we sleep in each others arms and tomorrow you save another village and when it's all over we'll go away for awhile and say everything and do everything." Gabrielle's voice and breath was hot and fast against Xena's neck.
"Yes when this is over, your wish will be my command." Xena whispered. As like water they flowed back onto the bed and cradled even further into one another.
Sorrow had recognized that Xena and Gabrielle needed to be alone and get some sleep, but her retreat to the corner had been a little more selfish than that. She was trained well enough in the art of combat to know their current predicament was hopeless. When everyone in the main hall had settled down and no sound was heard from the small room that Xena and Gabrielle had taken she left her cloak in the corner and slipped out of the temple.
Scorpion had made sure the men had a good hearty meal and then ordered everyone to get a good nights sleep, for there was a village to slaughter in the morning. He wanted to get some shut eye himself because he knew that if his plans worked out he would be spending the next night torturing that whore that killed his son.
He was awoken in the dead of the night when the attack alarm rang through the camp. His second in command came running in yelling something about an attack in the west end, at least fifty dead already. Scorpion jumped up and grabbed his sword and followed the man.
"By the Gods." Scorpion cursed as even from the entrance of his own tent he could see that most of the tents in the west end were on fire and any number of his men were running around screaming like women. He ran down toward the mayhem, but was stopped by one of his soldiers.
"Don't go sir. Don't know who or what. Men began disappearing one by one at first then entire groups dragged into the forest." The young man's face was gripped by fear.
"Get a hold of yourself." Scorpion said slapping the lad across the face. "Gather a group of men together. Have them go into the forest with torches. Flush out and kill whoever is in there." The man saluted and in a flash a group of twenty men walked into the forest.
Scorpion had never heard cries like this in battle. He had never seen anything like it in all his years.
"Men, everyone to the centre of camp. Light the fires as large as you can." Scorpion needed to group the men, he needed as many as he could keep from getting killed for the attack on Pearson. Everyone obeyed him, and except for a handful of slower soldiers who were picked off by the attacker no more men were lost that night.
"How many dead?" Scorpion asked his captain.
"I...uh..." the man stammered with his answer.
"How many alive then?" Scorpion asked sternly.
"A hundred and fifty I think, not counting any who were only injured last night." The man tried not to overestimate fearing the warlord would take out his anger on him.
"Someone killed a hundred of my men. Did anyone see who?" Scorpion yelled to the gathering of men. No one dared answer. No one knew what to say.
Sorrow managed to slip back in without anyone noticing. She slipped back under her cloak and went to sleep.
The banging on the large door at dawn frightened everyone. Xena came running out of her room and went directly to the door.
"Please let me in. It's Granger. I have news from the scout." A mans anxious voice called through the wood. The soldier positioned at the high front window signaled that it was all right and the door was opened for the man. Xena ushered him and Solanto back to a corner.
"Someone attacked the army last night." Granger tried to keep his voice down but his excitement overcame him.
"SSSHH." Xena clamped her hand over his mouth. "Tell me what happened?"
"Someone attacked the army in the middle of the night. At least thirty tents have been burned to the ground and at least a hundred men were killed." Granger managed to keep his voice quite.
"By who? Who's come to help us?" Solanto interrupted not knowing what was going on. "Did you send for someone Xena?"
"But no other army has been seen. The scouts have not had a single person pass their checkpoints. The whole camp is in confusion, but..." Granger hesitated.
"They are still preparing to attack as soon as possible." Xena finished his sentence.
"That makes no sense. If Scorpion has lost so many men, he must assume another army has come to help us, why would he continue?" Solanto was confused.
"He's arrogant and now he needs the treasure more than ever to continue his plans." Xena began to walk away. "Nothing's changed. Make sure everyone is ready." And with those words she went back into her room to wake Gabrielle.
"Gabrielle... Gabrielle?" Xena's voice was soft and her face was bent down close so it was more her breath that woke Gabrielle.
"I had the most wonderful sleep, Xena." The sleepy woman whispered out the words, until her mind suddenly snapped up remembering where she was.
"Good morning love." Xena whispered again as she placed a small kiss on the woman's forehead.
"Let's just lay here in bed." Gabrielle spoke trying to ignore the predicament they were in.
"I would like nothing more than that, but we have problems this morning." Xena leaned back and sat on the bed.
"What?" Gabrielle shot up into a sitting position next to Xena.
"Scorpion's army was attacked in the night. We may have another enemy out there." Gabrielle could hear the questioning in her voice. "The scouts say a good part of the camp is burned to the ground and at least a hundred men are dead...."
"But Scorpion will still be attacking soon." Gabrielle finished the sentence for her and absently brushed a stray hair out of Xena's face.
"Yes. Gabrielle there's still time. I can get Sorrow to escort you out. I know she can get you somewhere safe." Xena pleaded with her.
"No Xena. I am not going anywhere." Gabrielle's voice had a new strength to it. "You need both of us here and above anything else I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU."
"I love you so much." Xena looked at the bard, wondering when the little girl from Poteidia had changed into such a strong woman.
"As do I." Gabrielle's voice was soft as she leaned in and stole a quick kiss. " Now come on Warrior Princess we've got some warlord butt to kick." She added playfully as she jumped off the bed and out of the room. Secretly she swallowed her own fear down, not wanting to distract Xena from the battle ahead.
When the trumpet sounded a few moments later to signal that Scorpion and his army were entering town a controlled panic overtook almost everyone in the temple.
Xena had placed archers in all available windows and these men began the task of picking off as many of the enemy as they could.
"They've all retreated to the temple." The officer reported to his bored commander.
"Should I order the men to bring in the battering rams?" The man asked and was instantly surprised by the back of his leader's hand slapping him.
"What in Tatarus else do you think we would do?" Scorpion was angry. Not only was Xena and that damn strange woman helping the villagers but that he'd lost a good portion of his army to someone who seemed to appear and disappear like a mist. 'I must have that treasure now.' He thought to himself as the air became filled with heavy thuds from the battering rams.
"Xena, they're trying to break the door down." Solanto informed the warrior of something she was more than already aware of . Each time the door was struck it seemed as if the very walls shook around them.
"We have to split up his forces. Distract them from the door." Xena said turning around to Solanto. " Signal the men in the forest to attack and draw as many of his men back into the trees. NOW!." She yelled to make the man move faster.
"Scorpion a group of men have emerged from the forest."
"Send triple their number after them. Make sure all of them are killed. But DO NOT have one man leave his post at the door. I want it broken down." Scorpian barked out the orders to the man.
"About fifty of the enemy have followed our men into the forest." Solanto reported back to Xena. "But the effort to break the door down had not ceased. Xena what will we do if they break it down?" The fear in the man's voice was obvious.
"We will stand and fight." Sorrow's voice rose from behind them. "Because the door is coming down."
And if almost if as Zeus himself had struck at the door a portion of the wood at the centre gave way and a large crack split one of the doors in half.
"Soldiers to the front of the hall, everyone else to the back!" Xena screamed above the sound of splintering wood. "Don't rush them at the door at first, let them enter one by one."
The door had not been completely broken but enough had given way that one at a time, men from Scorpion's army came through. Xena herself cut down the first five men through. Sorrow, who had taken up a sword as well, finished off those who got by Xena in the first few minutes. But soon the onslaught of soldiers was too much for the two warriors and the temple's soldiers and then soon the village men were fighting everywhere.
Gabrielle had lead the women and children down into the hall leading to the ante chamber. Herded in like animals she knew they felt anything but safe, but she also knew that if the army got far enough to find them there they would be dead. Gabrielle ran back upstairs, she couldn't stay and hide, she was too worried about Xena. As she entered the main hall she couldn't believe what she saw. Men fighting everywhere, dead men everywhere. In panic she searched the mayhem until she found Xena, still fighting close to the door. She could see that bodies were piling up around the warrior princess. Her beautiful one was covered in blood and bits of flesh. Even from that distance Gabrielle could see that her eyes were wild and that battle lust had overtaken the woman. It sacred Gabrielle to her very core to see Xena retreat that far into the darkness, but at this moment she knew that for any of them to survive Xena would need to do just that. Gabrielle then shifted her vision to Sorrow, who was fighting just a few feet away from Xena. The bodies of dead men piled high around her as well.
The mass of men entering through the door stopped suddenly. Xena spun around quickly to appraise the situation. About twenty of Scorpian's men were still fighting in the hall, less than fifty dead on the floor. And she couldn't even estimate how many were from their side.
"There are over fifty men left outside." Xena yelled over the clamor to Sorrow as she pulled her sword out of a dying soldier.
"They're going to try and take the door down completely. " Sorrow growled back. "Quickly we must station the men in layers. No one must reach back to Gabrielle."
Xena turned behind to see Gabrielle standing guard on the entrance to where the women and children were hiding. 'Did she mean no one should get back there cause they would get to the villagers or just that no one should get to Gabrielle?' Xena's mind pondered the question for just a moment when the large smack of the battering ram hitting the door shook her to the bone. While she had been thinking Sorrow had already barked orders at the men to arrange them throughout the hall. All of them seemed to be looking now at Xena for approval of the other woman's plan.
"Do it!" Xena yelled at them all.
It only took a few more thrusts at the door before the entire bottom half dropped down. Before the dust could even clear the onslaught of soldiers flooded in. Against Xena's orders Sorrow ran a mere ten feet from the opening.
"Sorrow get back." Xena's words were lost amidst the fighting, and she was forced to turn her attention to the throngs of soldiers coming at her.
No one had enough time to notice that Sorrow had dropped her sword. She skillfully kept her back to the others and concentrated on the throats of the men who entered. Her father had taught her early that the most tender and vulnerable area of the body that most did not think to protect was the throat. Without it no one continued to fight for long. She inflicted blow after blow with both hands, she didn't try to defend herself from the stray sword thrust at her. She didn't feel the pain, she only wanted to kill them all. Protect Gabrielle at all costs.
Seeing what was awaiting them at the door. The last of the men turned and ran from the village.
"Must tell Scorpion of the...." But the soldier didn't know what to call her so he just ran back to camp.
After an eternity it seemed that suddenly no more men entered. Sorrow calmed herself in a heart beat, picked up the sword of a dead man and turned around. Everyone was fighting. Xena was in the corner to her left fighting off a group who had decided maybe it would be easy to take care of the warrior through numbers. But it was the slight gasp of breath she heard from the back that chilled Sorrow to the bone. She brought her eyes up to see what she feared most. A large solider had fought the small bard to the ground and had his sword swung back.
When the sound hit, it threatened to force the very air out of the temple with it's wrath. It wasn't a word or even a scream, it was more of a call some animal would make when it was in pain.
Everyone, good and evil turned to look at the source, Sorrow. But the woman was no longer entirely there. Xena stared as the fangs came down out of her mouth, as the woman's hand's grew claws and spikes emerged from her forearms. The two razor sharp horns emerged from her head next, up from the centre of her forehead, curling back around her head. Deadly barbs emerging all over them. It was what happened next that caused Xena to step back. Sorrow shoulders lurched forward as the back of her shirt split open and from the soft flesh of her back emerged wings.
Snapping her arms out to fully extend the spikes, Sorrow opened her wings to fly. With one movement of them she lifted up and with another propelled herself over the heads of all the stunned men toward where the soldier still stood over Gabrielle. Sensing that this thing was coming for him, the man attempted to finish the blow on the cowering figure below him.
"mother" The lisped word escaped Sorrow's lips as she hit the man. Her arms crossed in front of her body the spikes cut easily through the soft leather of his armor and sunk deep into his chest and stomach. Swooping up toward the ceiling, Sorrow stared into the eyes of the man as she forced her arms apart and by doing so shredded his flesh. Her rage sent pieces and then what was left of the man falling to the floor below.
With this display everyone began running from the temple. Even the priests had broke open the back door and sent the women and children to hide in the forest.
Within seconds only Xena remained standing in the corner, Gabrielle had risen to her knees on the floor and Sorrow had gently floated down to stand with her back to them. Xena finally found the strength to command her legs and she ran with her sword at the ready to Gabrielle's side.
"Are you all right?" The warrior asked her fallen love. But Gabrielle ignored her concerns and fought against her to stand up.
"What did you call me?" Gabrielle voice was tight and small as addressed the winged creature a few feet away, her mind was reeling. She could feel the very blood pounding through it as it rushed hard and fast past her ears. Sorrow took a deep breath and calmed the rage. Out of the sight of the two women the horns, claws and spikes retreated. In full view the wings curled up and burrowed there way into her back to hide. With all the strength she could find Sorrow turned around to face the stunned woman and spoke.
"I called you Mother." Sorrow looked briefly into the wild green eyes in front of her. Her heart was torn between the happiness of admitting to her mother of her existence, and the pain that stabbed her from the horror in the bard's eyes.
"No." Gabrielle was barely able to utter the sound. "This can't be true."
"Your father..." Xena spoke the timid words as both a statement and a question.
"My father is Dahak." Sorrow answered with shame. Her mind suddenly decided the best thing was to just keep talking tell them everything, tell them quickly. "When he raped you, he knew you would bare him a child. Bare him a legacy, but even he was ignorant of what would really happen." No one had interrupted her so she decided to keep going. "A mix such as that had never occurred before. He was even surprised when two babies, twins, were created inside of you. In his fear that your body would not be able to carry both of us, he stole me from inside you and brought me back to his realm to grow. You were left with one baby, the one with your gift of human flesh and his gift of evil. The baby grew inside of you with unthinkable speed, as I grew where I was. You gave birth to a girl. A beautiful girl with ten finger and ten toes. Yes the way she developed was unusual, but you had faith and so you named that baby Hope. Because she was your hope that with all the horror that had happened some kind of good could still be found. Meanwhile, I was presented the same hour that Hope was born to father. He was so elated over the birth of his daughter in this world that he didn't take the time to even look at me. I was an afterthought, just another demon for him to command. At first I tried to please him." Sorrow saw the shock at this admission in their eyes. "I knew nothing else. I knew nothing better. But it didn't take me long to realize I was not my father's daughter. When he finally noticed as well it was too late. So he named his baby Sorrow. He knew that I would bring him shame and unhappiness. I would not join him and not help him fulfill his desires. His gift to me was all of what I was a moment ago and more." Sorrow's words lost their intensity as she reached this admission.
"Let me see you as you are. Not this lie." Gabrielle commanded her. Hoping what she had seen moments ago had been an illusion.
"As you wish mother." Sorrow spoke the words with sadness. She couldn't tell if Gabrielle wanted to see her form to understand, or to give fuel to a hate.
Again the horns, claws and spikes emerged. But now Sorrow let the full transformation take place. Her hair thickened and tangled around her head. Her pale skin turned a gray colour and a rough texture. Her hips seemed to shift as her legs became thicker and more spikes emerged. Sorrow let the wings emerge from her back last. There white feathers framed a stark contrast to the rest of her form. She spread them out to full span.
"Now you are free to hate the demon that I am." Sorrow looked straight at her mother as the tears ran down her hideous face. 'How can you not hate me?' She thought as she cried.
Xena had watched silently through the entire transformation waiting for the one thing that never happened . "Her eyes are the same." The thought rang hard through her head
Gabrielle's mouth started to form a thousand words than stopped short of each one in turn. She could not see this, this could not be her child, could it? If this was her child, then she would have to open her thoughts to the evil that was Dahak again. They had been through so much. She had almost lost Xena for good last time. Each consequence of this creature being in the world flooded past her and tore her heart apart a little bit more.
"Why are you here? What do you want?" Gabrielle finally asked.
"Nothing." Sorrow spoke truthfully through the tears. "I have tried to avoid you. I was already in the inn when you arrived that night. I didn't know you were coming. Then suddenly you were there, I couldn't tear myself away. What harm could there be in listening to a story. Giving you a present. Then never setting eyes on you. I didn't want you to know." Sorrow willed her flesh back into a human form and slumped against the wall behind her. 'My heart is breaking,' She thought. 'Now I am sure I have one.'
"How did you get into our world?" Xena asked suddenly needing answers. "Hope was bore by Gabrielle. Dahak needed that damned ceremony. How?"
"Father banished me from his world, from his realm, knowing here is the only place I could go. " Sorrow spoke without looking at them. She hadn't wanted to talk about this. Hadn't wanted them to know.
"Why?" Gabrielle asked, fearing the answer.
"Please don't ask me that. Just hate me. Kill me. I won't fight you." Sorrow looked at Xena hoping some rage inside the warrior would make her strike out.
"Why?" Xena asked again as much for Gabrielle as for herself.
"The day that father was supposed to enter this world..." Sorrow looked right at them now, willing them to stop her, "...when the Gods of this world kept you from killing my sister," She looked at Xena, "...and you choose to drag her down into death with you." Sorrow looked at her mother now and did not move her eyes as she continued. "Father was so concerned in saving his precious little girl. He wasn't paying attention to me, he didn't know how much I had learned, how strong I had become. So I saw my chance to prove to myself that I was not his daughter and..."
"She saved you Gabrielle." Xena spoke the words in awe of what they meant. "That's why he banished her. She betrayed him."
"Yes." Sorrow confirmed Xena's words. "Father was busy trying to come up through the flames to save Hope. Keep her precious human flesh from being injured. So I caught you and placed you in a small cavern at the side of the pit away from the flames. When father found out he was deranged. I thought he would kill me and end my torment." She paused to take a deep breath. "It was Hope's idea to have him cast me out."
"Why would Hope want that?" Gabrielle asked confused.
"Why? Because of right now. Because she knew that seeing the hate in your eyes would hurt me. She swore to me that this would happen. You would loath me and Xena would destroy me." Gabrielle mind staggered under the weight of Hope's memory and yet another affirmation of her child's depraved nature.
"She promised me that no one, especially you, would be able to ...able to...love me." Sorrow struggled to get the words out..
"But that was Gabrielle's gift to you." Xena spoke out suddenly. The thought finally having clarified in her mind. The eyes never changing, the tears, and the inborn need for love.
"What are you talking about?" Gabrielle looked at her confused.
"When Dahak raped you..." Xena turned and held Gabrielle's head in her hands. "Two babies were made. Hope had your flesh and his evil spirit. But we never thought to think of what happen to the rest. A second child had to be, one with a monsters form and..." Xena let the silence hang for a second then spoke. " and a human soul. A human soul that came from you. Sorrow has that soul Gabrielle."
"No, no, no, no..." Gabrielle kept repeating it over and over as she drove herself against Xena. 'Maybe if I don't admit it this will all go away. Maybe if I just keep my eyes closed long enough this will turn out to be a dream. Then I won't have to cope with this.'
"Gabrielle." Xena's voice pulled her back into the reality she was so desperately trying to escape from. "Just look into her eyes. Look past the exterior." Xena couldn't understand why the confusion and fear was keeping Gabrielle from seeing who Sorrow was. With Xena's words Gabrielle turned to look at her child. A small part of her heart ached for the broken girl in front of her and wanted to console her, wanted to love her. But something else came up with it, a part of herself that refused to believe. Refused to believe out of the fear of being devastated again. The pain of all that Hope had done, had forced her to do and everything that had been destroyed won out.
"You cannot be my child. You admit yourself you are a demon." Gabrielle's voice was flat and held no natural inflections. She turned to Xena. "You wanted to kill Hope, so here is your second chance. Do what you think is best, I won't interfere this time." With those words Gabrielle walked past Xena and out the door of the temple.
"I will not resist Xena." Sorrow walked closer to Xena and dropped to her knees. "Even if she does not want me, I will obey my mother. She is the only good I have ever known, so she must be right to want me destroyed."
"No. She's just confused." Xena closed the distance between them and knelt with Sorrow. "She has been through so much. It almost killed her and it still rips apart her soul. She placed so much faith in Hope. She should have been placing it in you Sorrow."
"How can you say that I deserve any of her faith or love? You saw what I am. You know who made me better than anyone. How can you look past all that?" Sorrow asked confused.
"Because you saved her. I can look past all of that because you saved her." Xena answered softly. "You were raised in a place so filled with evil that none of us could ever fathom, but still you went against everything and saved her. For no other reason then she was your mother. Somehow the soul she gave you stayed alive in that place. Somehow you learned to love."
"I'm a monster Xena. When you look at me you must see Dahak's child not hers. How can you not hate me as well? It is because of my sister that your child is dead." Sorrow tried to invoke the memory of Solan to anger Xena.
"You didn't kill him Sorrow. And I believe with all my heart that if you could have saved him you would have." Xena felt the tears well up as she thought of Solan, but she had to focus there was another child to save right now. "It was you last night who went and attacked Scorpion's camp wasn't it?"
"Yes. I knew we couldn't fight for even a day against those numbers. I had to protect her and you." Sorrow wanted to tell this woman everything and anything she asked to know.
"I'll tell her how you risked yourself. She'll come to understand that you are not like Hope or your father." Xena promised. "She just needs time. She needs to clear her head and learn to open her heart again."
"Thank you Xena. It might be best though if she just forgets this and me." Xena wanted to object, but kept silent and let Sorrow finish. "I just want her to be safe and happy. Please take care of her." Sorrow spoke kindly as she stood up and Xena did the same. "But know that no matter where I am, if you ever need me, if she ever needs me. Just have her concentrate, to stretch her mind across the land and call me. I will come to her in an instant. I will fight to the death for an cause she deems worthy." And with that Xena knew Sorrow intended on leaving. Suddenly in an awkward and uncharacteristic motion, the warrior princess grabbed the woman and hugged her. Sorrow returned the grasp for just a second before she broke away and ran out the back of the temple, leaving Xena empty and alone.
"By the God's Xena I pray this nightmare is over now." Gabrielle spoke when she heard the warrior approach behind her.
"Gabrielle I couldn't kill her."
"What?" Gabrielle spun around confused. "You almost destroyed the both of us trying to kill Hope, but you let her live."
"She's not a demon," Xena corrected herself as the image of Sorrow transforming in front of them filled her head. "not entirely."
"Xena, I am too tired for this. My head is swimming and my heart hurts. Can we just leave this place and never return." Gabrielle felt all the emotions inside her swirl up and turn into a heavy feeling. She was beginning to fear she may pass out from the strain.
"Yes Gabrielle. The army is probably disbanded by now, we have no reason to stay." Xena moved to hold the wavering woman up before she fell.
"I don't think I want to see her again. I don't think I can. Xena, promise me I don't have to." Gabrielle whimpered as the tears started to flow down her cheeks.
"Whatever you want Gabrielle." Xena struggled with the words. But her heart silently wished for the day when Gabrielle would change her mind. Xena promised herself she would not push, this would be something Gabrielle would have to come to terms with on her own. Xena started to cry as she held her. Half for her this woman she loved and half for the child who somewhere out there was crying without anyone to hold her.
Continued in A Need For Sorrow...
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